The relationship between technology and jobs is center stage in the policy and academic debate. The discussion reveals a fascinating, troubling contradiction. On the one hand, there is widespread fear that innovation will lead to a loss of jobs and rising income inequality — the “race against the machines” narrative. On the other, the slowdown in productivity growth across advanced economies has led some economists to argue that new innovations have no impact on growth.

This debate has paid little attention to what we see as one of the most important waves of innovation. Upskilling technologies, a partnership between humans and smart machines, can augment workers’ abilities, resulting in dramatically improved performance, greater safety, and higher worker satisfaction. One of the best examples of this type of partnership is the industrial use of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses in manufacturing, warehousing, and field service environments that overlay computer-generated video, graphic, or text information onto physical objects — for example, step-by-step repair instructions hovering over a machine part, visually guiding a worker through the job. As we’ll show, wearable AR devices are now being used in manufacturing and industrial settings and can boost workers’ productivity on an array of tasks the first time they’re used, even without prior training. These technologies increase productivity by making workers more skilled and efficient, and thus have the potential to yield both more economic growth and better jobs.

Read more at Harvard Business Review

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